The Congress vice-president, Rahul Gandhi, has wrapped up his politics in contradiction, as he has touched upon too many causes without apparent evidence of his commitment to any.  Congressmen are not sure of the ideology with which he is leading the party.  In July, he pointed out the main drawback of planned economic development. It was a plan imposed from the top to bottom.  Planners’ and politicians’ notions became plans without ever ascertaining the needs of the people.  Development indicators were paraded before the world as evidence of modernisation.

However in recent months, neither has he initiated a debate on the need for correctives to the planning model to reverse these trends nor has he sought the inclusion of the deprived classes to the leadership.  It is now that he is in direct contact with various sections of society, to understand their demands for inclusion in the party’s election agenda.  However, these conclaves are an outlet for individual complaints, or at best, vocational woes.  He promises them more power through better representation in the next House. At the same time, he also indicates that he will pass over the power of candidate selection to the people by following the American pattern of primaries.  If people are to decide on the candidates, how can he accommodate those whom he promises more representation?

For five years, he has been working on a scheme to democratise the youth wing of the party, with an internal democracy in place so that the young could be empowered to take on greater responsibility. He had assigned the task to the lifelong bureaucrat, J M Lyngdoh.  He is no doubt a man of integrity, but has been immersed in paperwork for more than 40 years.  The basis of recruitment of fresh blood was to be the biodata of applicants. The party was not recruiting managers, but political workers who could mobilise people by inspiring them. The leadership quality would be mirrored in their field work and not in their biodata, on which corporate bodies depend.

He has often recommended infusing more  young blood in the party so that new politics could be ushered in. Yet, he could not find young men either in Chhattisgarh or in Mumbai for seats in the Rajya Sabha in the last biennial election. Instead, he chose the aged and ancient Motilal Vora and Murli Deora.

The Deora family has been holding Mumbai as though it were a family serfdom. When avenues of upward movement in the party are thus closed to men and women with merit, why should they come into the party? Not only this, he even succumbed to pressure of the party veterans, who may have won seats in the distant past, but insisted on the accommodation of their family heirs as candidates for the assembly polls in Karnataka in May 2013. In recent appointments, he gifted heirs of veterans with the charge of the party’s state units.  It is as though some select families are endowed with special genes that confer on them political acumen and the party need not look outside these families.

And in the face of this, he has been lamenting that he was assigned party responsibility as the heir of the Gandhi family. Not once, but quite a few times, he gave vent to his uneasiness over such an arrangement. Yet, he accepted the post of vice-president in January 2013 conferred on him by a Working Committee resolution, and not through a regular election for the post. This contradiction between his words and actions is also evident in other areas as well.

The party does not know about the economic policy that will emerge if the family charisma and efforts of Rahul Gandhi lead the party to success.  He did not heed the experts’ warnings that the Food Security Bill, flooding the country with 63 million tones of cheap food, would cause unmanageable damage to the agro economy. Instead, he endorsed the scheme and applauded it as the people’s right to food. He was surprised when a mediaperson pointed out the serious impact on farm labour availability after the rural employment scheme was brought into force.  At the same time, he also endorses the reforms route for the economic development. Nobody has brought to his attention that no economy can run on two parallel routes at the same time and deliver.

His first=-ever TV interview was a poor show because he came across as articulate only when it came to the tutored part and was stumped by unexpected questions, indicating his limited study of Indian sociology and history.  He hinted at the involvement of a few Congress lackeys in the 1984 riots against Sikhs in Delhi, but without recommending punishment for the guilty. That harmony and social cohesion cannot be established if the guilty are allowed to go free is the first lesson for every power-seeker.

He has virtually imitated the method of direct approach to people for the Delhi assembly polls last year. He edited the model by inviting people from different fields to talk of their woes, in his bid to establish  what people want. The crowds for his public outings were carefully chosen from the party. The drama of direct contact with people thus turned out to be a campaign gimmick. Does it indicate his commitment to build an inclusive system?

He is oblivious of the fact that his party has virtually made him a dictator. His every wish is carried out, all he has to do is drop the merest of a hint. He has suggested several legislations and the party has been over-exercised.

The amendment to the Criminal Procedure Code in relation to crimes against women was at his bidding. It ended up stirring up a hornet’s nest.  Many have been stung with false accusations. It has led to widespread fears in working with women. He has accuses Narendra Modi of behaving like an autocrat. He derides Modi’s claim that he would change the face of India in 60 months, unlike  the Congress, which has not done so in 60 years. May be he has a point. But his words also suggest that he is  daydreaming. His ‘Idea India’ revealed to the party conclave in January 2014 contained several utopian notions. Modi is consistent in his utterances. Rahul Gandhi keeps shifting from one to another.  The overall picture that emerges is that he has to learn a lot more, but there is no one in the party who can teach him.

Vijay Sanghvi

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